I sat inside his meager thatch hut, listening to his story, told through the tears of an orphan whose parents had died of AIDS. At thirteen, Richard was trying to raise his two younger brothers by himself in this small shack with no running water, electricity, or even beds to sleep in. There were no adults in their lives — no one to care for them, feed them, love the, or teach them how to become men. There was no one to hug them either, or to tuck them in at night. Other than his siblings, Richard was alone, as no child should be. I try to picture my own children abandoned in this kind of deprivation, fending for themselves without parents to protect them, and I cannot. The Hole in Our Gospel, pg. 7
Richard, just like all of us home-buyers, is God’s child. The resources that God has provided to each of us that allow us to read blogs and buy homes are not our own. They are God’s goods on loan for God’s good in the world. Whatever money we spend on a house is money not spent somewhere else. Money that goes into a beautiful kitchen is money that could have provided running water for someone like Richard.
The trick of living in a society like the US is that we are so disproportionately rich when compared to the global standards. Every item could be translated into a donation that could’ve been. Yet in order to live and function in this society, most of us need to buy expensive things like cars and homes. Navigating an appropriate lifestyle in affluent America is a tricky task, and we can become paralyzed by inaction or overwhelmed by guilt. It’s especially difficult for items like a house that literally cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
I believe the important thing is not to overspend on a house. If we buy a house that costs everything we’ve got and provides no cushion for anything in our monthly paycheck, then we are being an poor steward of our resources. We are using everything that God has given us on one thing. And, usually the motivation for buying a house that is at the absolute top of our price range is self-interest. When we do this, we take all the resources that God has given to us for the care of the world and use it to increase our own personal comfort.
Reading stories like the one above help remind me of the plight of others around the world. On an emotional level, it helps me not want to spend all my money on myself. I want to be able to respond with financial charity when I hear stories like Richard’s. So the house-buying principle that emerges is: don’t spend so much on a house that you no longer have the freedom to be generous. Being a good steward means spending a responsible portion of my income on a home so that I can still do the other things I believe God has called me to do. As soon as paying for a mortgage becomes so burdensome that it crowds out other callings and responsibilities, something is wrong.